MEXICO CITY: With the Prophet

When I was in Mexico City last summer, I didn’t intend to fall madly in love with a dead philosophical writer. You could have convinced me that I’d fall in love with tacos or with a museum or find myself cast on a telenovela and engaged in a rabid love affair with the male lead. But the words of a Pakistani writer were too preposterous and hipster, but it happened. I couldn’t get over the things that I read in the preserved letters of Khalil Gibran. He was gorgeously melancholy and his letters veritably dripped with over-the-top sentiments. He wrote to a lover named Gertrude about wanting to be a forgotten brother in a convent, abandoned on a mountain, and the longing to be a farmer.

All of this resonated with me because as I’ve pounded into your heads, I want nothing more than to be a monk some days, and I’d love to be a castaway on an island, and if you’ve read more than one of these blog posts you’ll know my deep and true desire to be a hay farmer in rural Romania. (Don’t worry, there’s more on that coming up!) Oh there would be nothing more joyful than baling hay all day and thinking of nothing but hay. Hay, hay, hay! It’s not to be, but one of these summers I swear to you I’ll vanish into the night, turn up in Brașov, and then make my way to the countryside to train as a hay farmer. I’m quite serious.

I wasn’t sure that Jessica would be so enamored of Khalil Gibran, as she is not the most sentimental or poetic. She cries at television shows and commercials and animals and when she breathes, but she is not one with a particularly poetic soul. I don’t know if words move her the way they do me. I mean, she was a librarian for a decade, but her particular interest was young adult fiction, hardly the realm of Gibran’s The Prophet. Still, I thought that she would be intrigued by the Museo Soumaya because the both of us love absolutely nothing more than wandering through a good art museum. This might shock some of my dear readers, but she probably knows the contents of the Louvre better than some art historians. For real.

I forewarned her that this would require a bit of a walk and I was surprised by how amenable she was to the idea. On vacation she is a much more pleasant young woman. It’s too bad that she has to go home. She’d be much happier living abroad. Oh I suppose we’ll be doing that someday too.

Queen Basha!

Before we could get out the door, Basha came bounding in as she is wont to do. We hadn’t yet bought her dog treats, but she was the kindest of creatures and wasn’t all that concerned. She just wanted attention, and we were more than happy to give it to her. She deserved it. I think, truly, she might be the only dog that I have ever liked. I’m not opposed to dogs. I’m not heartless. I’m not like those dog people that go on and on about how much they hate cats and how they can’t stand cats and how they think cats are minions of Satan. I’m not appalled by dogs the way they are, I just prefer the company of felines. They’re so soft and they can figure out the toilet by themselves and they take their own baths and they keep their own company. Dogs seem to always need to go out or make messes or whatnot. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. I didn’t much enjoy having a dog when I had one. Loved Shadow to pieces, mind you, and I was sad when he died…but I wasn’t really thinking about rushing off to replace him. Now, on the other hand, I’m always thinking about another cat. I met an angel named Sam the other night at PetSmart. I think about him every day, guys. He was a few months old and the most gorgeous light orange. He rolled around and stared at me until I felt deeply guilty. But I couldn’t adopt him. I don’t think Edwin would ever have forgiven me.

I told Jessica that she could pick the spot for dinner that night, aren’t I generous? Am I not an angel? I mean the answer is obvious. Comment your thoughts below! So she had a good time scrolling through various lists and landed on an Indian restaurant that looked incredible. You wouldn’t think it, but Jessica is really quite fond of Indian food. She and I gorge ourselves on frozen Indian meals from Trader Joe’s, which are really better than they have any right to be and I highly recommend you make your way there immediately. Seriously, y’all the palak paneer is INSANE. Oh, I’ve got a story for you!

Well, one day we were shopping for our weekly Indian feasts and Jessica’s favorite meal was out of stock. For most people, this would be a minor inconvenience. For most people, they would shrug and move on and pick out a different meal. Well, I’m sure you can imagine that Jessica is not most people. She froze with a look of abject horror etched on her face. She couldn’t believe that she was suffering so much, she couldn’t imagine why she had to be punished more than anybody else on the face of the planet. She wasn’t really considering the plight of immigrants or you know…the Holocaust. She wept and she hollered and members of the Trader Joe staff literally came to ask if she was okay. I was so mortified that I had to hideaway in the wine aisle and cackle. It turns out they made her samples of several of the other Indian meals and she eventually decided that one of them would be a sufficient substitute. In her heart, though, she has never gotten over this. I was very thankful that restaurants don’t generally run out of food. She might have had emergency services called on her otherwise.

But I’ve gone on for quite a ramble, haven’t I, what else is new?

The trip to the Museo Soumaya was long, but I didn’t mind. I was in a state of rapture getting ready to once again be surrounded by gorgeous paintings, Rodin sculptures, and the gorgeous cursive letters of Khalil Gibran. Jessica was just hopeful that it was something akin to the Louvre.

When we arrived we about turned around. There was a considerable line outside of the museum that didn’t seem to be moving at all. Of course it was, but in that moment, Jessica lost all hope and all willpower to continue living. I’m sure she would have happily ran out into the street and waited for a bus to smash into her and remove her from this Earthly plane. Much like in La Reina del Sur season two when Sofia chases Morgana into the street and she is hit by a bus after Sofia dressed up like a demon and cleverly used whipped cream to make it look like she was possessed. God that was a good show. Did you all watch? By the time I finally get this published online, seasons one and two will BOTH be available on Netflix. That’s like nearly 100 hours of wonderful entertainment. You’ll go to prison with Patricia O’Farrell and you’ll deal hashish with Santiago and you’ll start Transer Naga and become LA REINA DEL SUR and you’ll be hunted by the DEA and then ultimately you’ll be hidden away in the witness protection program in Tuscany and then an old cartel leader who is now trying to be the president of Mexico will steal your daughter and you will be reunited with your best friend, Oleg, in Moscow, and then you’ll be in Italy and then Mexico and then Spain and then there’s a bull chasing you and you’re thrown into a meat grinder and you make an unholy alliance with a drug lord before falling in love with a secret DEA agent and then defeating the most iconic evil gay super villain in the history of entertainment. Anyway…highly recommended.

The line moved slowly, but it moved steadily and before long we were at the security checkpoint. I was ever so glad that it wasn’t raining like Mexico City is so inclined to do. March isn’t the rainy season, so I didn’t have to worry about the torrential rainfalls of the previous summer. I didn’t think I was ever going to dry out. The amount of rain was amazing. But not today. No. We just had perfectly clear sun, blue skies, and the jacaranda trees flourishing wherever the eye landed.

LOOK AT THEM!

Truly I was in heaven and even Jessica didn’t seem to mind waiting too much. She was distracted by a baby who was absolutely in love with us and who wouldn’t stop smiling. It was rather precious…for a child.

Before long we made it into the spacious entry, all white paints, asymmetrical curves, and Rodin, and began to explore. I’ve detailed this museum at length before, I believe, but if I haven’t, I’ll hold you in suspense until I finally finish my blog posts from my last trip. I have been so behind. I apologize. I have done a disservice to Mexico City by keeping it to myself and not sharing it with you, my beloved readers.

We spiraled our way through coin collections, charming paintings of North American natives done by Spaniards, ivory carvings, more and more paintings, some of them magnificently bizarre:

Explain please.
I have questions.
I have more questions.

Then I trapped Jessica in the area of my beloved Khalil. I hope she liked him as much as I did. I hope she felt the thrill of his prose and painting. I hope and hope but honestly I was too overwhelmed by my own delight to pay much attention to anything else. I reread his letters with new appreciation now that I’ve learned more about his life and experiences. I thought of his dear Gertrude and the other women he expostulated over. I was thrilled by the way he formed his letters in a clear but distinct cursive that was influenced strongly by his native Arabic. It was wonderful.

Upstairs we wound our way through works of European art and then more art and then even more art before ascending to the top level where an interesting blending of pieces is assembled. Between massive and minuscule sculptures by Rodin — a favorite of the museum donor’s — were sketches and letters and even ceramic busts.

art art art art me art art

A collection of particular interest to me was an area where letters from important and famous people were displayed. I have been lucky to see a lot of historical things in my life, I mean I’ve crawled through pyramids in Egypt after all, and in Des Moines I’ve even seen an autograph book with Mark Twain’s scrawl, but there is something that captivates me every time I see the signature of Napoleon. I can’t understand why it fascinates me so much. Napoleon himself sends no great thrill down my spine, but every time I come across something that personally belonged to him, I get the most curious feeling. Maybe I knew him in a past life? Maybe I’m just being silly? Maybe it’s both, but it’s happened in Mexico and in France and in England. Who can say?

By this time, though, we were both becoming ravenous, and if we could have slid down the spiraling slope that takes viewers through the museum, we would have descended as fast as humanely possible. Unfortunately that wasn’t possible, so we had to scurry as fast as we could without slipping on the polished marble that gleamed from every surface.

Starving to death.

The Indian restaurant that Jessica found was not that far off and it was an impossibly beautiful day and for some unbeknownst reason to me, Jessica was amenable to walking. Again. I found myself highly suspicious.

Shocked to my very core, it took me some time to get a grip of the surroundings I was walking through, but once my eyes started noticing the houses, jacaranda trees, and embassies, I think Jessica began to quickly regret her decision to go out on a stroll.

THEY ARE ALL FLAWLESS

Everything was far too beautiful and I had to photograph every jacaranda tree because every single jacaranda tree was more beautiful than the one that came before it. But then I came across something that managed to overthrow my passion for the purple blooms, there was something that completely overwhelmed me, there was a building — an edifice — a creation — an unexpected delight…y’all…it was the ROMANIAN EMBASSY.

CAN YOU BELIEVE??

Now, if you’ve been reading this series of travelogues for any length of time, and bless you if you have, you will understand the powerful impact this nation has on my psyche. I’ve never been to Romania though I’ve flown over Bucharest and glared hatefully at the clouds that prevented me from seeing the terrain. I barely speak a bit of the language, I don’t know it’s rich history, but it has fascinated me from youth. It’s one of the destinations that I suppose is on my bucket list. I hate the idea of a bucket list. You shouldn’t have to live life in such a way that you don’t prioritize your desires. Do what you want as often as you can. You never know when you’re going to get smashed by a car or struck by lightning. I personally know…knew…somebody who was struck by lightning and died. Isn’t that wild? I mean, of all the ways to go, if you have to die you might as well go out with a bang. And now an important and unexpected country music interlude:

Now that we’ve had that entirely unexpected country interlude, we can get back to Romania. One of these days I’m going to get there and I’m going to wander through the monasteries and settle down in a country farm where I can harvest hay and think about vampires and very little else. I crave that simplicity, you know, which is absurd as I write this in the middle of a very busy time. I get the feeling that I’m always going to be busy.

I stood and posed by the Romanian Embassy entrance and smiled at the security cameras hoping and praying that the ambassador would see a kindred soul and invite me in for tea and a chat about hay. No such thing happened, and so Jessica and I carried on, and I wandered along with thoughts of hay and haunted monasteries and tempura paint and goulash fluttering through my brain. It took me a bit to snap out of it, and the pang of hunger in my stomach certainly helped bring me back to the present.

We were very near to the Indian restaurant Jessica had selected and now we had to focus on figuring what not to order. We were graciously ushered upstairs to a beautiful dining room and proceeded to order, and I’m not joking, at least half of the menu. We had curries and naan of every variety and mango drinks and more that I’ve long forgotten. We ate and ate and ate and then ate some more and then asked for a box to go and were rolled out onto the street with bags of food to take home. Before we left, though, Jessica ordered ice cream that was corn flavored, and reader, I have honestly never been so disgusted by something in my life.

Disgusting.

By the time we got a few feet down the road we were already starving to death, but it would have been somewhat uncouth to eat it on the side of the road, so we determined to savor our meals later. This, unfortunately, ended in calamity that I will let you know later on when a horrible truth was revealed to me.

But at that time, I was still innocent and stuffed, and life promised nothing but adventure. Jessica must have been particularly satisfied with the meal because she did something that I expected her to squawk about for hours. She agreed to walk. AGAIN!

We walked to the Telemundo headquarters, which weren’t that far off. I don’t know what I expected to see, but it was just a basic office building with a fancy glass lobby. Telenovela stars weren’t sauntering in and out, there weren’t massive posters for my beloved La Reina del Sur, there wasn’t even a massive sign of the channel’s logo. It was something of a letdown, but I still took the opportunity to have a photo taken in front and yammer on about Kate del Castillo. Passersby learned a lot about the return of the REINA.

Where is my REINA?!?!

“Limes!” Jessica cried, pointing at two electric scooters on the sidewalk available for rent. We have been fascinated by these devices, but it’s been impossible to find two at the same time. Well, this was nothing different and we were set up for disappointment. One scooter was a Lime and the other was another brand…and upon reflection, I really don’t know why this was such an impediment. All we needed to do was download another app, but we weren’t thinking it seems. We were very full of Indian food, though, so that’s my excuse. The entire time we were in Mexico City, we daydreamed of getting on the scooters, but this was a goal that never came true. We didn’t try very hard, admittedly. Well, once Jessica put a foot on one tentatively, but we didn’t follow through and actually make the thing go.

Jessica needed to go back to the apartment now, so we hailed an Uber. Back in the apartment I prepared my body for the second round of our Indian feast. With great enthusiasm, I grabbed pots and pans, I got the oil hot on top of the stove to warm the nibbles back up. I pulled the lids back with delight and then I began to SCREAM INTO THE NIGHT. We had been given the wrong leftovers. The courteous and wonderful staff had taken our dishes back to the kitchen to prepare them for us. Somehow, somebody else had my delicious paneer and I was left with some lamb dish that I wouldn’t have eaten even if I was willing to consume meats other than fish. My heart was broken.

But, I rallied. I was still in my beloved Mexico City in my beloved courtyard surrounded by my beloved neighbors and my beloved streets. That knowledge brought tremendous solace to my soul, it soothed my aching heart, it satisfied me completely. I will never stop missing Mexico City. I think I procrastinated on these blog posts for so long because I couldn’t bring myself to write the experiences out for you. I was selfish and want to keep them all for myself, so that I, like I’ve so frequently said, can imitate Dolly Parton, and go wandering once again, back through the seasons of my youth. (Now, youth might be a stretch, but allow me to feel young and fresh and new. I was still 29 back then. Le sigh…)

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